The law is curious, it affects and shapes the lives of every single person and yet remains unfamiliar to most. Most lawyers take pride in its quirks, questioning and arguing it, rightfully laying claim to the title of being learned. However, if the law is to deliver justice for the people for whom it’s created it has to be clear, straightforward and accessible. This blog therefore aims to contribute to that purpose by raising an awareness of human rights and the rule of law in Southern Africa. By adopting a simple and straightforward format, the blog aims to present quick updates on case law and relevant legal developments within the region. It will also offer a refreshing assessment of how the region interacts with a number of different influences.
By adopting a simple and straightforward format, the blog aims to present quick updates on case law and relevant legal developments within the region.
It’s quite telling that a simple search of cases from the Southern Africa region introduces the reader to a number of latin terms—nolle prosequi, amicus curie, generalia specialibus non derogant, pari pasu etc—most unfamiliar to the ordinary person and others no longer in use in the established common law jurisdictions they’re derived from. A look at some of the legislation in the region also displays laws inherited from a bygone colonial era, some of which have since been repealed in the countries they originated from. Compounding these observations are the twin effects of globalisation and the region’s traditional and religious beliefs. Globalisation impacts the law of this region because a number of international corporations operate there, most with headquarters in Europe and therefore largely unaccountable to the governments of the countries they operate in. The religious and traditional beliefs of the region also have an impact on the law, often clashing with the international treaties and obligations that the region’s countries are party to.
… it was in the crucible of Johannesburg that the characters of icons like Ghandi and nobel peace laureates, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela were shaped.
The blog starts off at the beating heart of Southern Africa—Johannesburg. A magnet for people of all cultures and creeds and a melting pot for people from across the region. Home to the Constitutional Court, it is here that South Africa’s internationally lauded constitutional law has been shaped and also here that gold was discovered—a discovery which has shaped South Africa’s economy and commerce to this day. Further it was in the crucible of Johannesburg that the characters of icons like Ghandi and nobel peace laureates, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela were shaped. Johannesburg is also home to the Apartheid Museum and it was on the streets of this city that the unstoppable passion that led to apartheid’s abrupt end was generated. The Museum is a sobering reminder of the harsh realities of this country’s history and part explanation for its present fractures; more than that it’s a reminder of the far reaching and sometimes pernicious effects of the law—left unchecked it can be used to validate dubious purposes; a timely reminder of the necessity to scrutinise the law and keep it accessible, transparent and fair.
More recently, this city has become home to a burgeoning cluster of influential human rights organisations working across the region to advance the rule of law. These organisations tap into the insights and expertise of local lawyers some of whom have emigrated to live here whilst still conducting important work in their home countries. This has led to a wealth of collective knowledge and expertise of the law within Southern Africa and resulted in an unprecedented push to promote human rights and the rule of law. This blog will routinely feature such organisations and the work they do with the hope of advancing the rule of law or at the very least ensuring that people are ‘just aware’.